Shenandoah RIVERKEEPER® Mark Frondorf joined Potomac RIVERKEEPER® Network in 2015. Potomac Riverkeeper Network is the home for three Riverkeepers: Potomac, Shenandoah and Upper Potomac. Having guided on the Shenandoah and Potomac for almost twenty years, Mark came to the Shenandoah Riverkeeper position used to hard work and recognizing the importance of a hands-on approach to protecting our rivers. His passion for the water, combined with his people and analytical skills, honed over 25 years as a think tank senior policy analyst tackling some of the most vexing issues facing our nation, make him ideally suited to defend the Shenandoah against pollution, protect our right to clean water, and promote the recreational use of this beautiful river.
As the former president of the Potomac River Smallmouth Club, he successfully lobbied both Virginia and Maryland officials to implement and expand catch and release regulations and he was instrumental in getting the federal government to revise the Code of Federal Regulations to permit wade fishing on portions of the Potomac. Mark also served on the Board of Directors for the Mid-Atlantic Federation of Fly Fishers.
Shenandoah Riverkeeper works to protect the public’s right to clean water in our rivers and streams. They stop pollution to promote safe drinking water, protect healthy river habitats, and enhance public use and enjoyment.
Potomac Riverkeeper Network is dedicated to monitoring the condition of the rivers through regular on-the-water patrols, volunteers, and citizen reports through the website and the mobile phone app, the Water Reporter. In addition, they work with university law clinics, nonprofit legal groups and corporate law firms that provide pro bono legal services and conduct compliance reviews of pollution permits. Staff and legal interns also provide legal research on pollution permit compliance.
The evidence of pollution observed during monitoring includes polluted runoff from construction sites and farm land, fish kills and fish with lesions, algae blooms, illicit discharges from pipes and many other signs of compromised water quality. Some of problems are old and ongoing, but others are new. They notify government oversight agencies, contact the polluter, and if needed, take legal action if other actions do not result in improvements.
- The Water Reporter, a mobile reporting app — Makes it easier to find and report pollution — and to report the fun things you see and do on the river. Working with Chesapeake Commons, Potomac Riverkeeper Network developed a mobile app, which is a Bay-wide initiative, to gather critical data on the waterways you love! The Water Reporter App for iPhone and iPad is now available for download for free! If you’re out and about and see debris flowing from a construction site, cows in your stream, or a pipe discharging questionable water, use the app to report it. Once your report is submitted it will be sent to your local Waterkeeper and to a live map available on the Water Reporter Website. The Water Reporter app is not only for the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. There are 18 local Waterkeepers in the Chesapeake Bay region waiting for your reports. Reports will go to your local Waterkeeper.
Enforcement & Advocacy Program
Shenandoah Riverkeeper uses information from monitoring and community activity and takes actions to create positive change. At any given time, the three Riverkeepers are working on roughly two dozen active enforcement and advocacy matters, including commenting on pollution permits when they are up for renewal, pushing government regulators to recognize major pollution problems and act on them, and filing lawsuits against polluters and government agencies that are allowing pollution to continue unchecked.
The Clean Water Act and other environmental laws allow residents to improve their local rivers and streams through “citizen suits.” On behalf of Potomac Riverkeeper Network members and the residents throughout the watershed, Shenandoah Riverkeeper and its attorneys routinely monitor known polluters. When they find that a facility is violating its pollution permit, they consider factors, such as the impact of the violations on public health, and the size and scope of the violations, before taking action. After a review, in most cases, they contact the worst polluters to tell them to stop polluting our water supply and to clean up existing pollution. If they do not, they begin legal actions by filing a mandatory 60-day “letter of intent” to sue under the Clean Water Act. As a last resort, we will take a polluter to court to stop the pollution. Current Shenandoah Riverkeeper actions.
Small farms, when viewed as one, represent a large portion of the agricultural sector in the Shenandoah Valley and other parts of the Potomac River watershed. In the Shenandoah Valley, Shenandoah Riverkeeper is going “site by site” to all the farms in the area, opening a dialogue with farmers about improving the practices that endanger the health and jobs of people living downstream.
Many small farms are not regulated and difficult for government agencies to monitor. So far, the best way to improve water quality downstream from farms is to persuade farmers to adopt Best Management Practices (BMPs) on a voluntary basis. Small changes can make a big difference. Here are a few of the most common and most effective changes we ask farmers to make:
- Prevent cattle from using the river as a restroom by fencing cattle away from rivers and streams
- Stop feeding of cattle on the banks of rivers and streams
- Creating buffers to catch rainwater that carries animal waste, dirt, fertilizers and pesticides into the river during rain storms
The program begins by initiating dialogue with the farmers to build trust and understanding about the way their farming practices may be damaging our water supply. They offer links to cost share programs and other support for farmers who are willing to implement best management practices. In the event that discussions break down, or improvements stall, the program will use local regulations where they exist that may compel farmers to make changes.
Shenandoah Riverkeeper tracks, comments on and challenges Clean Water Act permits for stormwater from construction sites, industrial sites, and municipal stormwater systems. Stormwater runs off the land and picks up sediment, fertilizer, trash, chemicals, and other pollutants and carries them into our creeks and rivers directly or through storm sewer systems.
Fracking & Mining
The proposed construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would impact the headwaters of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. This is a transmission line to get fracked gas out of Pennsylvania and West Virginia and ship it down to North Carolina and Portsmouth, Virginia. If constructed, this pipeline will traverse the South River, one of two rivers that join up down by Waynesboro to form the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Shenandoah Riverkeeper is opposing the construction of the pipeline because it can be built without hurting the habitat of a number of endangered species, it endangers the George Washington National Forest, and sedimentation caused by construction could threaten the water quality. Shenandoah Riverkeeper is working with the Allegheny Blue-Ridge Alliance and others to fight the construction of this pipeline
Algae & Nutrient Pollution in the Shenandoah
Shenandoah Riverkeeper, represented by Earthjustice, filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA for its failure to act in the face of this threat. EPA has failed to carry out a non-discretionary duty to either approve or disapprove of Virginia’s list of waters deemed impaired under the Clean Water Act, which was published in 2012 without an acknowledgment of the Shenandoah’s algae problems. Listing would have triggered specific government plans to combat algae pollution on the Shenandoah. Omission from the list means delay in addressing a serious and growing problem.
Since 2010, Shenandoah Riverkeeper has collected hundreds of complaints from river users and submitted most of them to the Virginia government in hopes it would recognize the problem and take direct corrective action. Shenandoah Riverkeeper continues to receive complaints from river users about slimy green growths of algae, which cause bad odors, interfere with swimming, fishing, paddling and boating, and are contributing to a decline in the health of fish and aquatic ecosystems in the river.
In 2012, Shenandoah Riverkeeper officially requested that Virginia DEQ designate all reaches of the Shenandoah River as impaired by algae on Virginia’s “303(d) list,” the list on which states are required to designate water bodies that fail to meet water quality standards under the federal Clean Water Act. Virginia is required by the Act to consider all information about stream impairments when updating its list. While Virginia has taken account of similar evidence in prior decisions to list other water bodies as impaired, it has refused to list the Shenandoah as impaired despite the ample evidence submitted in this case. In December 2013, EPA compounded Virginia’s inaction by failing to either approve or disapprove of Virginia’s decision not to list the Shenandoah as impaired, in violation of an explicit statutory duty to take action. This is why Shenandoah Riverkeeper has filed its notice of intent to sue the EPA.
For several years, Shenandoah Riverkeeper has worked with research partners at the USGS and other agencies on further understanding the health effects of endocrine disruptors in rivers, vigilantly monitoring the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers for further fish kills, and are building community awareness. There are 80,000 chemicals in the US marketplace. The government only tests water for 1 out of every 400. Many of these chemicals that are not regulated or tested for are endocrine distruptors, a type of chemical pollution believed to be the cause of fish kills and intersex fish in the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers. Federal, state, and local governments are mandated to provide basic services like safe, clean drinking water. In order to guarantee that our water is safe, these pollutants must be stopped from entering waterways in the first place, and we must study, test for, and–if necessary–remove endocrine disruptors in our water supply.
Potomac Riverkeeper Network undertakes a number of activities and projects that enhance the use and enjoyment of our rivers, with the ultimate goal of increasing public awareness of and participation in protection of the rivers. The Riverkeeper programs also work on some policy and legislative issues related to our work protecting access to the rivers. Every year they host RiverPalooza, a series of paddling events.